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Percentage of people in poverty dropped for the fifth consecutive year

America Counts: Stories Behind the Numbers

October 3, 2019
By Craig Benson and Alemayehu Bishaw - U.S. Census Bureau , Toledo Chronicle, Tama News-Herald
The share of the U.S. population with incomes below the poverty level dropped between 2017 and 2018  the fifth consecutive annual drop, according to new American Community Survey (ACS) estimates released today. The 1-year estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau s 2018 ACS show declines in poverty in 14 states and Puerto Rico and in seven of the 25 most populous metropolitan areas. The poverty rate declined in seven of the 25 most populous metropolitan areas. It dropped for the fourth consecutive year in five of these seven areas. Poverty did not increase in 2018 for any of the 25 most populous metropolitan areas. Planners, policymakers and community stakeholders use poverty estimates to evaluate trends and current economic conditions in their communities. The ACS data allows them to make detailed comparisons across demographic groups. In addition, federal and state governments often use these estimates to allocate funds to communities. Government agencies and local organizations regularly use the data to identify the number of individuals and families eligible for various assistance programs. In 2018, 13.1% of the U.S. population had income below the poverty level, down from 13.4% in 2017. This is the fifth consecutive annual decline in the ACS national poverty rate. New Hampshire had the lowest poverty rate in 2018 at 7.6% while Mississippi had among the highest at 19.7%. The poverty rate declined in 14 states and Puerto Rico. In three of those states (Arizona, Illinois and New York), poverty declined for a fourth consecutive year. Four states (California, Florida, Georgia and North Carolina) had declining poverty rates for a fifth year in a row. The poverty rate increased in only one state, Connecticut, from 9.6% in 2017 to 10.4% in 2018. The poverty rate declined in seven of the 25 most populous metropolitan areas. It dropped for the fourth consecutive year in five of these seven areas. Poverty did not increase in 2018 for any of the 25 most populous metropolitan areas. The Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV Metro Area (7.6 %) and the Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, CO Metro Area had two of the lowest poverty rates among the 25 most populous metropolitan areas (Figure 3). (These two metro areas were not statistically different from each other.) Conversely, the San Antonio-New Braunfels, TX Metro Area (15.4%) had the highest poverty rate among these most populated metro areas. For the fourth year in a row, the percentage of people in poverty decreased in the three most populous metropolitan areas (New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA Metro Area; Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA Metro Area; and the Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI Metro Area). percentage-of-people-in-poverty-dropped-fifth-consecutive-year-figure-4 Among all metropolitan areas, the Rochester, MN Metro Area (6.6%); the Sheboygan, WI Metro Area (6.6%); and the Ogden-Clearfield, UT Metro Area (6.7%) had among the lowest poverty rates. (These three metro areas were not statistically different from each other). The McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, TX Metro Area had among the highest poverty rates at 30.5%. The Census Bureau also publishes poverty estimates based on the Current Population Survey Annual Social and Economic Supplement (CPS ASEC). For information on poverty esti?mates from the ACS and how they differ from those based on the CPS ASEC, see this factsheet. Comparisons between 2017 and 2018 for Delaware and the Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD Metro Area are not made in this article. Craig Benson and Alemayehu Bishaw are survey statisticians in the Social, Economics and Housing Statistics Division’s Poverty Statistics Branch.

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